How to Choose a Theme for your Academic Website

Which theme should you use for your academic website?

I used Genesis for many years. It was the foremost theme framework for designers and developers – very lean and well-coded to high standards. But it was definitely a developer-centric framework, meaning that you needed a developer to customise it, unless you knew CSS and PHP.

When the modern crop of page builders such as Elementor and Beaver Builder came along, creating sophisticated designs became a faster process and opened the doors for more DIY website builders. Like many other designers, I started to switch away from the Genesis framework towards using Page Builders.

At this point I began to use the GeneratePress theme instead of the Genesis framework. GeneratePress is a lightweight theme which is easy to customise. I paired this with Elementor Pro which I preferred over Beaver Builder for ease of use.

When the Gutenberg Block Editor for WordPress came along I began to switch away from Elementor towards using Gutenberg. For a time I used both in combination while the new Block Editor was being developed. Increasingly now, I find the designs I previously needed a third-party Page Builder to accomplish in short time, I could now build using Gutenberg. So my current design toolbox consists of:

These are the 4 basic design tools I use for any website.

Depending on the project requirements, I might add the Ultimate Gutenberg Blocks plugin. Sometimes I'll use Stackable and Redux block patterns for design inspiration, or if the project budget means there is not much time available for customisation.

In practice I've found that, despite these recent developments in website design, I almost always need to code some CSS and PhP to get the design and functionality just right. But website design practices have certainly come a long way and the choice of a website theme to influence the look of a website is no longer relevant. Instead a theme is chosen primarily for its speed and stability, and block design makes it easier for web designers to offer their clients sophisticated customised designs at an affordable price.

If you are looking for a partner for the entire academic website building process or simply the technical side of hosting and maintaining your academic website send me an email or contact me for help.

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